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Waterloo sweeps Force out of the playoffs

FARGO-The Fargo Force were on the wrong side of history Tuesday, April 18, as they lost a first-round Clark Cup playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Waterloo capped the sweep of the best-of-5 series with a 3-0 win at Scheels Arena.

Fargo's Mitchell Chaffee is dejected after the 3-0 loss against Waterloo Tuesday, April 18, 2017, during the USHL playoffs at Scheels Arena.David Samson / The Forum
Fargo's Mitchell Chaffee is dejected after the 3-0 loss against Waterloo Tuesday, April 18, 2017, during the USHL playoffs at Scheels Arena.David Samson / The Forum

FARGO-The Fargo Force were on the wrong side of history Tuesday, April 18, as they lost a first-round Clark Cup playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Waterloo capped the sweep of the best-of-5 series with a 3-0 win at Scheels Arena.

The Force had never lost in the first round in its five previous United States Hockey League playoff appearances. It was the first three-game losing streak of the season for the Force, as they ended their ninth season still in search of their first Clark Cup championship.

"It was a series of momentum," Fargo coach Cary Eades said. "Obviously, the first game was key. They were able to make a comeback and win it in overtime and grab momentum of the series. We fought back hard in Game 2 and couldn't tie it up.

"I thought both teams were emotionally drained tonight. There was tired minds, tired bodies on both sides. They were able to get two goals to give them life. We couldn't buy a goal."

Jack Adams broke the franchise record for goals in a season and was the first Force player ever to lead the USHL in goals. Blake Lizotte broke the franchise record in assists for a season. Lizotte finished second in the USHL in points in the regular season, Adams finished fifth and linemate Hank Crone tied for third.

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Lizotte, Crone and Adams had no points in the series, as Waterloo blanked one of the best forward lines in the league in its push to the Western Conference Final.

"Their home record was unbelievable, so starting the first two games at home for them was tough for us," Lizotte said. "That Friday night overtime loss kind of kicked us while we were down. We didn't play as well as we hoped, but they're also a good team."

In a must-win game, the Force came out flat. In the first 11 minutes the Force had one shot on goal. Waterloo struck first when Force goalie Ryan Bischel made a stop on Mason Palmer's shot from the left point, but couldn't stop Jackson Cates, who stuffed home the rebound with 5 minutes, 32 seconds left in the first.

Bischel was in net after starting goalie Matt Murray hurt his right knee in the second period of Game 1. Bischel was the only reason the score remained 1-0 after 2, as he stopped 15 shots in the second period, many of which were prime scoring chances for the Black Hawks.

"We don't make any excuses," Eades said when asked about Murray. "It's unfortunate for him. He set the franchise record in wins. He was our go-to guy, but I thought Bischel was outstanding. That's what a team is all about. You get a guy go down, it's the next man up."

The Force traded goalie Robbie Beydoun to Waterloo in July. He bit them in the series stopping 73 of the 77 shots he saw, including all 24 Tuesday.

"He's a great kid. We had to move him because we could only keep four 96s," Eades said. "We had two young goalies in mind and they had a great season for us. We're happy for Robbie. Did the job for them, no question, but he's got to credit his defense a lot. They really boxed out, they tied up, they kept us to the perimeter. I can't think of many, if any, rebounds we got to. It was a team effort on their part."

Waterloo made it 2-0 just 80 seconds into the third. Dylan Samberg slid a pass backdoor from the left point to Shane Bowers, who had nothing but net in front of him. The Force pulled Bischel with 3:12 to go and on the power play, but Bailey Conger fired into the empty from the Waterloo zone to seal it with 1:21 remaining.

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"It's one of those things where we just didn't get the bounces this series," Lizotte said. "We had an amplitude of chances Friday and Saturday there and a few tonight. They just didn't go in. It happens."

FIRST PERIOD: 1, W, Cates (Palmer, Sorensen), 14:28.

SECOND PERIOD: no scoring.

THIRD PERIOD: 2, W, Bowers (Samberg), 1:20. 3, W, Conger, 18:39, sh, empty net.

SAVES: W, Beydoun 7-12-5-24. F, Bischel 10-15-12-37

A: 2,040

Related Topics: HOCKEY
Murphy has covered sports in Chicago, Minnesota and North Dakota since 2009, working for The Forum since 2012. Contact: cmurphy@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5548
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